It was a game that held much trepidation for Bills fans. Knowing inexperience can often put a young player at a disadvantage, Buffalo's faithful were genuinely concerned about how three Bills offensive linemen making their first career starts would fare in a primetime atmosphere on the road in Foxborough.
And while there were a few hiccups along the way for Demetrius Bell, Andy Levitre and Eric Wood, the trio held their own with veterans Geoff Hangartner and Brad Butler and served notice that they're likely to put it all together sooner rather than later.
"I'm really proud of the young guys," said head coach Dick Jauron. "I know they got beat and they had a couple of penalties in there, but they play hard and they give us a real chance and they're just going to get better. I'm optimistic about that."
Manning the left tackle position Bell battled with the likes of Adalius Thomas and Tully Banta-Cain for the majority of the game against New England. His technique only appeared to wane a bit on the last offensive possession for the Bills. He was also called for a few pre-snap penalties that look to be correctible. Otherwise his pass protection was steady and his run blocking was effective.
The rookies Levitre and Wood also held their own. They didn't win every battle on every snap, but they won their share and were particularly effective in executing the screen passing game. Often times Fred Jackson had blockers in front of him and Levitre and Wood were part of that effort quickly getting to the second level. It helped Jackson average an incomprehensible 16.6 yards per reception on five screen passes.
"We had a lot of balance in our play calling," said Wood. "We had some friendly calls for us up front with the screens and nakeds and those things help us up front and we appreciate it."
There's no secret new offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt did what he could to put the young linemen in a position to succeed, but the young men up front still had to execute.
Converting on third down was a problem in the first half, but the line did a better job of holding up for Trent Edwards in the second half as they moved the chains on four of their last five third down situations in the game including three on their long 14-play 72-yard drive to take an 11-point lead with just over five minutes remaining.
"Those three guys in that group that had never played in an NFL football game before to start week 1 and play the way they played, I'm still very impressed," said Edwards. "There were times where I was standing there in the pocket and taking three and four hitches and still no one was touching me and we can gain positively from that. It was a lot of the reason we were converting on third downs."
"That's what we're working to do, make plays on offense," said Wood. "We made some plays and we have playmakers on offense and we just have to keep feeding the studs and block up front."
And though the outcome of their Week 1 experience did not end on a positive note the young linemen feel there's a lot to draw from heading into the home opener Sunday.
"We just have to move in the right direction," said Wood. "We've got tough guys up front and that's the type of game we want to play. We rested up Tuesday and are coming out today to be better against Tampa Bay."